It seems that Reach Records has hit the proverbial stride as a label in recent years with several chart topping releases that are packed with beats that punch and lyrics that minister, convict, and uplift. Reach Records and 116 Clique are back with a highly anticipated compilation album that serves as a soundtrack for the Reach Records produced Man Up short film. Talk about stepping your game up and raising the bar. Although, this review is a critique of the musical compilation it was reviewed in the context of how well it worked with the film. So is Man Up thumbs up or is it Man down? Let’s get into to the review and see.
1. Man up Anthem – Lecrae, KB, Trip Lee, Tedashii, Sho Baraka, Pro and Andy Mineo: The album begins appropriately with the Man Up Anthem produced by Cheese Beats, which is not cheesy by any means. The cadence of the drums is a call to arms for all men everywhere to man up and each artist goes extremely hard on this heavily orchestrated track. There are too many stand out lines and 16s to mention them all as each artist literally tries to “Man up” each other lyrically but a notable quotable is Trip Lee’s “but we fell away, now we UnGodly / we lose and we really got the blues like Navi”. This song reminds me of God the Father entering Eden and saying “Adam where art thou”. This track echoes that same sentiment to men everywhere and challenges them to Man Up and separates the boys from the men!
2. Authority* – Lecrae, Tedashii, Pro and KB: Next up is Authority which is really not about authority at all. It’s all about submission which sometimes is a hard concept for men to grasp. In order to lead we must follow. The track is produced by Big Juice and commands the listeners to pay attention to the infectious hook. “Ay who I follow's who they follow when they follow me / A real man bows down to authority”. Lecrae shines on the hook and KB takes authority with his fast flow on this one. All of the artists remind us of the Apostle Paul’s instructions to the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 11:1 - Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. This is a definitely repeat track.
3. Responsibility – Sho Baraka, Trip Lee, Pro, Lecrae and Tedashii: This is a song that addresses a man’s Godly responsibility in every area of his life. Trip deals with responsibility in marriage while Lecrae breaks down financial stewardship and gives a word of correction in the area of giving. T-Dot wraps it up and speaks on owning up to your mistakes and accepting responsibility for your actions. Sho and Pro lend their talents to the hook but did not lift the song in the way that I would have expected with them being featured. Still the track is a solid one and is produced by PRO. It features fat synths and a chest rumbling 808. The most amazing thing about the track is an arpeggiated synth that cuts in and out of the track in the verses. This is one of the best beats on the project and is sure to get this track several listens.
4. Envy* – Tedashii, Andy Mineo and KB: This is a great concept song where the artists do not just tackle the topic of envy but they actually become the personification of this sin and show how it can drive you to unhealthy competition and pride. Tedashii goes in first on this track that seems tailor made for him. It sort of has an “I’m Fresh” feel to it from his Identity Crisis album. The song employs a vocal sample from the musical “Annie get your gun”. I loved the way they played up the concept with KB telling Andy Mineo that he knows his verse was hot but says you haven’t heard mine yet and then proceed to drop a line that says “I hate it when praises go to another dude / I grind to the T to stay in front of U”. This is a great concept song that was executed well. Press repeat!!!
5. Courage* – Sho Baraka, Lecrae, Trip Lee and Pro: The play list gets gully on this one. Sho Baraka on the hook is a highlight of this song. It’s not a lyrical standout but simply his tone, delivery and personality comes through. Trip Lee gives another standout 16 and Sho Baraka’s word play reminds me of how creative he really is and in many cases under rated.
6. Temptation – Andy Mineo, KB, Pro and Tedashii: This song deals with the temptation that men and women for that matter have with sexual temptation and sin. Sections of the song remind me Drake’s "Forever" with the incorporation of the piano chord hits and auto tune. The definitely is lifted to new heights with What lifts this track is the rock edge that is incorporated and the preaching of Leonce Crump
7. Repentance* - Lecrae, Trip Lee and Andy Mineo: This by far is one of my favorites on the project. This DJ Official produced track has a laid back East Cost/ R & B vibe. The track and lyrics and very introspective and it was good hear this type of flow from Lecrae again which was almost a throwback to the After the Music Stops album. This song leaves you looking forward to the next Trip Lee project and a full length album from Andy Mineo. This was the perfect message to end the project with. Repenting is in fact manning up, taking authority over your sinful nature, accepting responsibility for you actions and courageously turning away from envy and temptation. Enough said!
Categorical Ratings Breakdown:
Originality/ Creativity (3/5): In terms of originality there are no new concepts addressed here. Now before the 116 fanatics begin to clamor over this rating let me state for the record that there is nothing creative or original about writing a song about responsibility and naming it responsibility or temptation and calling it temptation. Hopefully, you get the point here. That being said there were flashes of creativity in how certain tracks were approached such as "Envy" and I appreciated the way some artist were only featured on the hook in certain songs and they refrained from trying to force a 16 or split 8 bars between two artist. The creativity truly lies in the accompanying DVD which is not a part of the musical critique so with a seven track song listing “Man Up” the CD comes up short in this area for me.
Lyrics (5/5): Lyrically this is standard 116 clique content. I appreciated the fact that they did not use the 116 tag line as a lyrical highlight on the project. Nor was there a lot of repeating of “man up, man up” in each song. This says to me that each artist took careful thought concerning the lyrics and no one took the easy way out. It is filled with clever wordplay and most of all they are believable lyrics.
Delivery (4/5): This is difficult to rate since the delivery is spread across seven artist. Each artist is different with their style, approach and delivery. The overall delivery is precise and direct and it also sounds like the artists had fun working on this project. All of the artist mesh well together and there is cohesiveness to the project. Sho’s ½ hook on “Grind” felt a little out place but since it was only a few bars it did not detract from the overall song. For me, if had to single out one to give the delivery award to then it would be Trip Lee. I left this project waiting to hear another full length album from him. We’ll let the other artists deal with their “Envy” on that one.
Beat Selection/ Production (4/5): With a project that is seven songs in length it is important to take special care to ensure that there are no skippers. Reach does a great job with this. Each beat fits well into the playlist and maintains the cohesive structure of the project. There are a few standouts tracks but none that I personally feel go super hard enough to garner a 5 star rating.
Concept/ Arrangement (4/5): The concept of songs addressing men’s responsibility is not a new one but this project does tackle some topics that are seldom discussed. The overall purpose and concept for the project to be the sound track for the movie and it also becomes the foundation of an accompanying curriculum. Each song title dealt with an issue that needed to be addressed for men and the track list, although short, was arranged well. Compilations are not a new endeavor for Reach Records considering the success they’ve had with the 13 Letters compilation and curriculum. Not to compare Man Up to 13 Letters but conceptually it felt as if there was something lacking.
Maybe it is the short play list but considering that you are purchasing the CD and DVD for one price it, for some listeners it will make up for it. In the end Man Up is definitely a 'Thumbs Up'! It not only speaks to boys and men but the opposite gender will be ministered to as well since no one is exempt from the human struggle that we find ourselves in as a result of sin. This is definitely purchase worthy but I’m not sure that seven tracks were worth the wait considering when this was first advertised. Still go get it in fact get an extra two copies as give a ways and bless someone.